When Your Ear Listens to Your Heart: The Mystery of Pulsatile Tinnitus

05/04/2023 | Hearing Loss, Patient Resources | 0 comments

Many people have experienced the strange sensation of hearing their heartbeat in their ear. It can be a concerning experience if it happens frequently, but rest assured, you’re not alone.

This phenomenon is known as pulsatile tinnitus, and it affects thousands of individuals. While most people experience it in one ear, it can occasionally affect both.

In this blog post, I want to provide you with essential information about pulsatile tinnitus: how it manifests, why it occurs, and potential treatment options. My goal is to help you or your loved one find relief from this condition.

What Are the Symptoms of Pulsatile Tinnitus?

Pulsatile tinnitus is a specific type of tinnitus where you hear your heartbeat in your ear, often synchronized with your pulse. Unlike regular tinnitus, which is characterized by a constant ringing or buzzing sound, pulsatile tinnitus has distinct symptoms.

According to the CDC, nearly 1.5 million Americans currently experience pulsatile tinnitus, while approximately 50 million have encountered some form of tinnitus in their lives.

Common symptoms of pulsatile tinnitus include:

  • 1. Hearing a heartbeat in the ear
  • 2. A pulsing or thumping sound in one ear
  • 3. A feeling of high pressure or stuffiness in the affected ear
  • 4. Changes in the intensity or pitch of the sound depending on body position or head movement

Pulsatile Tinnitus Is What Is Known as a Somatosound

Pulsatile Tinnitus Is What Is Known as a Somatosound

A somatosound refers to a perception of sound that is generated by non-auditory sources within the body, rather than originating from the external environment or the auditory system itself.

These sounds are often described as pulsations, vibrations, or rhythmic noises that are perceived as audible sensations. Somatosounds can be experienced in various parts of the body, including the ear, head, neck, or other regions.

Sounds that come from inside the body aren’t really considered tinnitus, so professionals generally don’t like using the term “objective tinnitus” for pulsatile tinnitus.

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What Causes Pulsatile Tinnitus?

There are several possible reasons why you may be hearing your heartbeat in your ear.

Pulsatile tinnitus can be caused by various factors, including:

1. Changes in blood flow:

Narrowing of blood vessels, high blood pressure, or an increase in blood volume can lead to pulsatile tinnitus in one or both ears.

2. Structural abnormalities:

Irregularities in blood vessels or movement of the bones inside or near the ear can be responsible for the sensation of hearing your heartbeat.

3. Tumors or growths:

Although rare, pulsatile tinnitus could indicate the presence of a benign or malignant growth in the head or neck region.

It is crucial to seek medical attention if you experience pulsatile tinnitus. A healthcare professional can determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.

Ignoring or delaying the diagnosis and treatment of pulsatile tinnitus may lead to further complications and health issues.

What Steps Should You Take If You Have Pulsatile Tinnitus?

The first step is to schedule an appointment with one of our experts at The Hearing Center. We specialize in audiology and hearing care and can guide you through the process of identifying the cause of your pulsatile tinnitus and recommend suitable treatment options.

Keeping a symptom journal is also essential. Note down when you experience pulsatile tinnitus, how long it lasts, and any potential triggers. This information can assist your audiologist in understanding your condition better.

Are There Treatment Options for Pulsatile Tinnitus?

Various effective treatments are available for pulsatile tinnitus. It affects approximately 3% of tinnitus sufferers, according to the American Tinnitus Association. Managing stress and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be the most holistic approach to treating pulsatile tinnitus. By reducing stress levels, exercising regularly, and following a balanced diet, you can improve your overall well-being and alleviate symptoms.

If you suspect you have pulsatile tinnitus, taking action promptly is crucial. Delaying treatment can worsen symptoms and complicate the healing process later on.

Depending on the cause, your audiologist or ENT specialist may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

1. Medications:

Certain medications can help manage underlying causes of pulsatile tinnitus, such as high blood pressure or anemia.

2. Surgery:

In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to correct obstructions and structural abnormalities or remove tumors.

3. Lifestyle changes:

Implementing relaxation techniques, avoiding exposure to loud noises, and addressing sleep issues can reduce the severity of pulsatile tinnitus. Learning techniques to manage tinnitus can make a significant difference.

4. Sound therapy:

External sounds can mask the pulsatile tinnitus or promote habituation. This treatment helps you become less aware of the noise.

5. Hearing aid masking:

Masking is beneficial for individuals with pulsatile tinnitus in one ear. It should only be used as part of a guided tinnitus management plan under the supervision of a licensed provider. Proper care is essential, as sound generators can worsen symptoms if misused.

We’re Experts in Tinnitus

If you’re hearing your heartbeat in your ear, you may be experiencing pulsatile tinnitus. While this condition can be distressing, it’s essential to remember that treatments are available, and you can take steps to manage the symptoms.

However, a proper diagnosis and guidance from a hearing care expert are necessary to begin the journey toward relief.

If you’re experiencing tinnitus symptoms or hearing your heartbeat in your ear, don’t hesitate to reach out to The Hearing Center. Our caring professionals are dedicated to providing the assistance you need.

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Margaret Richards Au.D., CCC-A

Originally from Mobile, AL, Dr. Margaret Richards graduated with a bachelor’s of science in communication disorders from Auburn University in 2010 and obtained her doctorate of audiology from the University of South Alabama in 2014; in addition, she holds a certificate of clinical competence in audiology.
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